Alec Guinness transfers an appearing challenge from the stage to the display, on this account of a Cardinal pressured to knuckle underneath to a Communist regime — as an alternative of extracting a confession with torture, Jack Hawkins’ Inquisitor uses psychology to seek out his prisoner’s weak spot. The picture is uneven however its key performances are selection, with a special help from Wilfrid Lawson as a jailer.
1955 / B&W / 1:85 widescreen / 95 min. / Road Date March 12, 2019 / 39.95
Starring: Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Wilfrid Lawson, Kenneth Griffith, Jeanette Sterke, Ronald Lewis, Raymond Huntley, Percy Herbert.
Cinematography: Reginald Wyer
Film Editor: Frederick Wilson
Unique Music: Benjamin Frankel
Written by Bridget Boland from her play
Produced by Vivian Cox
Directed by Peter Glenville
Is this an anti-Communist piece, or simply a story about human convictions and human weak spot? Consider it or not, some interpreted it as anti-Catholic in 1955. European movie festivals might have turned it down to stay away from political or religious controversy.
Movie historical past abounds with high-toned footage concerning the human spirit in extremis, and of males of the material put in situations the place they need to endure the sufferings of Christ… tales of this type may be pretentious or inspirational, depending on the talent involved. When topical politics come into play there’s an enormous danger of attracting inflammatory expenses of propaganda — the Chilly Conflict years noticed a number of highly-confused footage that combined politics and faith — Purple Planet Mars and The 27th Day, to call two. However The Prisoner is about actual political oppression by regimes that might not tolerate the competitors of churchmen for their residents’ hearts and minds.
Bridget Boland and Peter Glenville’s The Prisoner comes straight from the stage with its unique star Alec Guinness intact. Multiple critic on this disc notes that the actor’s experience with the play might have led to his changing to Catholicism two years later.
The show is principally a two-character battle, and onstage probably performed out in simply a few sets. As with other ‘significant’ tales, a selected country isn’t named. However dialogue makes it clear that the country is an Japanese Bloc satellite tv for pc. And it was no secret that the play was inspired by the show trial and imprisonment of a Hungarian Cardinal in 1949.
The characters aren’t given names both. After a morning Mass, The Cardinal (Alec Guinness) is arrested for treason, put in jail and questioned by The Interrogator (Jack Hawkins). The churchman and the former doctor have been as soon as comrades in the resistance towards the Nazis. That was just some years before, but now the brand new totalitarian authorities must discredit the church, which is perceived because the enemy of the new order. Thus The Interrogator’s activity is to get The Cardinal to confess to non-existent treason. As The Cardinal efficiently resisted Nazi torture, The Interrogator makes use of psychological strategies to achieve his objective. To the discomfort of The Common (Raymond Huntley), demonstrations and resistance have to be put down; newspapers demanding to know why The Cardinal is being held with out trial are silenced. The prisoner and his interrogator principally speak in tangents concerning the deadlock between them, and look at their opposing roles in a wierd charade. The Cardinal mocks the flimsy evidence of treason introduced towards him. But The Interrogator ultimately finds several chinks in The Cardinal’s armor — his previous together with his mom and petty secrets from his youth, and goes to work using The Cardinal’s satisfaction and humility as weapons towards him.
Theater man Peter Glenville acted in a handful of movies but made his mark directing a some high-profile footage, particularly 1964’s Beckett. This is his first film as director and he acquits himself properly. The ‘opening up’ of the play is less successful. Some exteriors have been filmed in Belgium to characterize the tough streets of an Iron Curtain metropolis. A nicely-staged sequence throughout a mass begins the film with a five-minute sequence without dialogue, as The Cardinal is delivered a notice that he shall be arrested, right in the midst of the ceremony.
The only really deleterious scenes involve the connection of a jail clerk (Ronald Lewis of Mr. Sardonicus) with a married lady (Jeanette Sterke) whose husband has left the nation and cannot return — their story is dropped without comment. We also witness the capturing of a boy caught chalking freedom slogans on a wall. None of this notably delicate, or emotionally efficient.
In distinction to the fairly deep mind video games performed through the interrogation periods, writer Boland provides us fairly numbing exchanges between Hawkins’ Inquisitor and Raymond Huntley’s humorless Get together functionary, fretting about potential uprisings of ‘the individuals’ and putting strain on a quick confession from the cagey Cardinal. Considered one of The Inquisitor’s ploys is to convey The Cardinal’s mother to the prison, unconscious underneath a white sheet on a gurney. When The Cardinal admits that he never liked his mother the best way a son ought to, The Inquisitor has finally found a weak spot he can exploit. Has The Inquisitor been studying Kafka?
Governments at present can simply fabricate ‘evidence’ of treason for no matter function may be needed, however back in the postwar era, things weren’t so refined. The Inquisitor has faked ‘revolt’ maps glued collectively from clippings of The Cardinal’s handwriting. Utilizing a tape recorder and a document cutter, an assistant additionally cuts and pastes bits of audio recordings of the interrogation periods, to make it sound as if The Cardinal is admitting crimes towards the state. However The State wants The Cardinal to confess willingly, in a public trial. The Interrogator must one way or the other break his prisoner down totally. It’s not brainwashing, but a defeat of the private will.
At this point in his career Alec Guinness was recognized in film mainly as a chameleon comedy actor, despite performing in several dramas. With no particular wig and with darkish makeup around his eyes, he virtually seems to be like an Egyptian Pharaoh. His dead-eye stare additionally resembles his later position as the key policeman brother of Physician Zhivago. Much of his efficiency appears familiar till The Cardinal begins to crack, at which point the play and Guinness go in an sudden course, avoiding hysterical theatrics. At one point we expect the Cardinal might choose being executed, just to alleviate him of the strain of his new guilt for being a failed cleric.
Jack Hawkins’ strong help helps things considerably — he’s the only actor whose talent disguises the expository lapses within the play, when things are spelled out too clearly. Of the other actors, only two make a robust impression. Kenneth Griffith is sort of good as The Secretary, The Inquisitor’s basic flunky and manipulator of audio recording machines. Griffith doesn’t put any spin on this position, to make The Secretary appear a degenerate, and so on. — he’s just doing a job that have to be executed. Horror followers will immediately recognize Griffith from his nice half in the squeamish shock basic Circus of Horrors, where he performs a less in-control flunky, aiding and abetting dastardly crimes.
In contrast to humorless footage about comparable horrible persecutions (John Frankenheimer’s The Fixer comes to mind), The Prisoner provides a sort of comic aid to the proceedings, with out throwing the overall tone out of whack. Third-billed Wilfrid Lawson may be recognized to American audiences as Wendy Hiller’s ‘undeserving poor’ father within the unique 1938 Pygmalion. Lawson also exhibits as much as good effect in Tom Jones, The Fallacious Field, Expresso Bongo, Hell Drivers and The Long Voyage Residence. Right here he has a considerable position because the prisoner’s Jailer. Apparently even prison turnkeys in Communist nations are allowed to have eccentric personalities. In the course of the booking process The jailer delights in criticizing The Cardinal, but is intrigued when his charge will get down on his palms and knees to wash his cell spotless. By the top The Jailer is completely on The Cardinal’s aspect, and even makes this dissenting opinion recognized to others. The movie wants this type of tone shift, and Lawson performs it nicely.
Less profitable is the ‘deep’ resolution whereby prisoner and inquisitor figuratively change locations. The filmmakers hold The Cardinal’s future in a cloud of ambiguity, however Hawkins’ Inquisitor comes down with a too-easy-to-predict Judas guilt complicated.
Arrow Academy’s Blu-ray of The Prisoner is a effective HD switch of the film, dealt with by its American distributor Columbia (Sony). 4 minutes have been apparently reduce from the film for its U.S. launch, but no point out is made from what these may need been — was one thing deemed offensive to us delicate Americanos, or did somebody simply need to hurry up the film’s pace?
The image seems to be quite good, with only a tiny hint of a scratch here and there; a couple of reduce points leap at the splice, which is a bit sudden. In any other case we now have no complaints; Alec Guinness fans won’t really feel cheated. Benjamin Frankel’s music score is sort of good, drumming up emotions of battle and importance with out resorting to clichés.
The presentation comes with worthwhile crucial extras. Neil Sinyard’s 20-minute video interview dispenses fascinating information about the movie and its reception. So do Philip Kemp’s partial commentary (four scenes) and the insert pamphlet’s essay by Mark Cunliffe. I took in all three and may say that I didn’t find much content material overlap between them — every has its personal angle of strategy.
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Film: Very Good
Supplements: Interrogating Guinness, a video appreciation by Neil Sinyard; Choose scene commentary by Philip Kemp; Illustrated collector’s booklet with an essay by Mark Cunliffe.
Deaf and Listening to-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English (function solely)
Packaging: One Blu-ray in Maintain case
Reviewed: April 17, 2019
Visit CineSavant’s Most important Column Page
Glenn Erickson solutions most reader mail: [email protected]
Text © Copyright 2019 Glenn Erickson